By Lauren Mowery
Illustration by Joao Neves
A true child of the Mediterranean, refreshing Vermentino evokes fantasies of beachfront sipping alongside pasta garnished with golden Sardinian bottarga. A late-ripening grape with good resistance to drought and disease, it’s at home in coastal and northwestern Italian regions like Sardinia and Liguria, as well as throughout southern France and French-governed Corsica.
Wine lovers swear by its aromatic, saline pleasures, while winemakers appreciate its potential for zest in warm, arid growing conditions. Typically, it’s floral or mineral, expressive of citrus fruits, and light to medium in body, with a bitter finish. But rich, creamy expressions are possible.
Broad and textured yet fresh, Vermentino offers fans of Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio a taste of something different. Happily, the grape has spread beyond Europe’s borders to excite growers in New World regions like the U.S. and Australia, where winemakers hunt for adaptable grapes.
The Italian Grapes Making Their Mark in California
Though Vermentino has popped up across the country, South Australia has become a hotbed of experimentation. Koerner in Clare Valley is notable for its skin-contact expressions. Equally innovative McLaren Vale producers like Chalk Hill Wines, Mitolo Wines and Oliver’s Taranga Vineyards explore myriad styles but are best known for slimmed-down versions that are bright and light as sea foam.
Megan Glaab, co-owner/winemaker of Ryme Cellars in Healdsburg, believes Vermentino belongs in Sonoma County. She calls it a “bulletproof variety” that makes good economic sense. She crafts skin-contact and sparkling versions. Even in warmer , where Italian-influenced Giornata winery harvests riper fruit, the wine remains persistently fresh. It’s a testament to the versatility of the variety across the state.
Vermentino has taken root throughout the state, but most notably from south of the Panhandle region to Hill Country, where it shows off its citrus-spiked tropical side. An early pioneer of Italian varieties, Duchman Family Winery sources grapes from cooler, continental sites in the High Plains American Viticultural Area (AVA), as does family-run Pedernales Cellars. Ron Yates, owner/president of Spicewood Vineyards, believes Vermentino has a bright future in Texas, as it holds onto crisp acidity and elegance, even in hot years. Other producers to know include Bingham Family Vineyards and William Chris Vineyards.
Published on August 21, 2020